The facts of the case are straightforward: in 2018, Georgia’s far-Left supermodel and shadow governor Stacey Abrams’ reported net worth was $109,000. Now it’s $3.17 million. Amid questions about how she made some of these gains, Abrams has insisted that there has been no impropriety. Even if that is true, however, her rapid rise to millionaire status is, or should be, a cautionary tale about America’s political culture today and why we have so many politicians who just hang on in Washington year after year, decade after decade: being an elected official or a person of political influence is just too lucrative.
JusttheNews.com reported Thursday that “Abrams’ net worth skyrocketed over 2,800% in just three years thanks in part to her holdings in a company called Now Corp. (previously called NowAccount or “Now”), a Government Accountability Institute study has found.” It seems that Abrams’ “campaign filings show her net worth is more than $3.17 million after making more than $6 million in book advances, speaking deals and growing corporate investments like NowAccount.”
In addition to all her political activity, Abrams has found time to write four books, including a novel, “a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court” that became a number one New York Times bestseller and is in the works to become a TV production. In May 2021, she signed a deal with Doubleday for two more novels. She commands between $50,000 and $100,000 for a single speech.
Now Abrams’ novels may be great, and her speeches riveting, but this kind of money, and far more, is all too commonly given to public officials. The Obamas got a staggering $65 million book deal in 2017, which both Barack and Michelle would have to sell well over a million books to make back for the publisher. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made $7.2 million in speaking fees in 2019 and 2020.
Imagine an unscrupulous politician who gains a position of power and influence. With that kind of money flowing around, it’s all too easy to see how a politician who is willing to be bought could be purchased. Want to buy a vote? Want to buy an advocate for a cause, but don’t want your connection to be seen? Hire your target to speak and pay him a few hundred thousand, or a cool million. Everything would be completely on the up and up: the speaker is a famous politician! He or she is in great demand! No ethics inquiries, no trouble, no trace of what happened.
Now of course that never happens, because all of our politicians are selfless public servants and models of probity, right? Maybe, but in Abrams’ case, there are questions about some of the ways she has become a millionaire. The book deals and speaking fees don’t account for all of the money she has made. Abrams co-founded a financial technology (“fintech”) firm called NowAccount in 2010. She made $80,000 as its senior vice president the first year and $60,000 after that. But then NowAccount struck gold — taxpayer gold.
According to JusttheNews, “in 2013, Abrams’ fintech company pulled in just $100,000 in annual revenue, but thanks to a federal small business loan program overseen by the state of Georgia, NowAccount would soon have the power to distribute nearly $10 million in taxpayer funds to its network of applicants. By 2016, NowAccount’s applicants were defaulting on their loans, and taxpayers were left to bail out more than $1.5 million in bad loans. In 2018, the year Abrams ran for Georgia governor for the first time, NowAccount paid her nearly $300,000—a dramatic increase—her financial disclosure shows.” Then in October 2021, the gravy train became an express, as NowAccount made “a $29 million financing and investment deal” with “two private equity firms.”
Abrams insists that she “played no role in securing the state contracts” for NowAccount and “scrupulously avoided conflicts of interest.” The problem is that “the decision to apply for taxpayer funding under the 2010 Jobs Act was Abrams’ idea,” and she was minority leader of the Georgia House at the time. When it came to light that taxpayer money had been used to bail out NowAccounts’ clients’ bad loans, Abrams said she had “walled [her]self off’ from NowAccount’s activities. However, a Government Accountability Institute “investigation has found that rather than ‘wall [herself] off,’ Abrams was actually an integral part of the plan to use the federal program to benefit NOW (which Abrams previously admitted).”
Whatever may be the truth about Abrams’ dealings regarding NowAccount and Georgia taxpayers, her entire career shows how lucrative “public service” can be, and the hazards of that are obvious. Imagine if there were legal barriers to elected officials earning anything beyond the salary specified for their office. Even that wouldn’t fix the problem entirely, as Abrams herself is not an elected official. But it would be a step in the right direction. Public service in America isn’t public service anymore; it’s a place at the public trough. For the sake of our future as a free republic, that must end.